I haven’t posted anything for a while. Any of you who followed me regularly on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter probably thought I had died. Not so. I just got off of all social media platforms a few months ago and haven't been doing anything, even with my website. You may be wondering why I did that. Well . . . I was spending way too much time there. I should have been doing more productive things.
I have always considered Bill Glass one of my mentors in prison ministry. He had a couple of sayings that went like this: "When you are where you are, be there”, and "When you’re at where you’re at, be there”.
One time he was riding in a car with his two teenage granddaughters and his phone started ringing. One of his granddaughters said, "Grandpa, your phone is ringing."
"I know it."
"Aren't you going to answer it?"
"Why not?" she asked.
"Because whoever is on that phone, is not as important to me as you are."
I’ve heard Bill say that dozens of times. Each time, I would come home with a new determination to live the when-you-are-where-you-are life. Whenever I was with one of my daughters or sons, or with my wife, I wasn’t going to have my phone in my hand ready to answer on the first ring. I want to confess to you that I failed miserably every time.
My wife loves old movies and when we sat down to watch a movie, I was on Facebook the whole time. She would ask me if I was watching and I’d say, "The guy just said, so and so." I’ve always been good at multitasking. I heard what was being said, but my heart wasn’t with my wife watching something she loves.
So, where o where have I been? I have turned over a new leaf, by the grace of God. It has been a few months now and I feel like I am doing it better than I ever have. I don't care what other people do, but for me I have to do this. Everyone tells me they will see me when I get back on Facebook. But I tell you, if you want to see me—call or text me and we can meet for coffee or lunch. So, that is where I have been.
Now, for what's going on in our prisons around the country. I am sure there are hundreds, no, thousands of volunteers, like myself, who would do almost anything to get back to the normal routine of going to the prisons every week. I personally know many who have been in prison ministry for decades who feel the same way. The one thing we can do is pray.
Prayer changes everything. When you read these latest numbers from THE MARSHALL PROJECT you will want to pray. Our brothers and sisters behind the walls are hurting. Please join me and lift them up.
By Dec. 8, at least 249,883 people in prison had tested positive for the illness, a 10 percent increase from the week before, though cases may have been undercounted in previous weeks due to limited testing in some states over the Thanksgiving holiday.
New infections this week reached their highest level since the start of the pandemic. The latest surges have far outpaced the previous peak in early August. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and Michigan each counted more than 3,000 new positive cases among prisoners. California had more than 2,000. Colorado, Washington and Arizona each saw more than 1,000 new cases.
Reported cases first peaked in late April, when states such as Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas began mass testing of prisoners. Those initiatives suggested that coronavirus had been circulating among people without symptoms in much greater numbers than previously known.
There have been at least 249,883 cases of coronavirus reported among prisoners. 166,382 prisoners have recovered.
The first known COVID-19 death of a prisoner was in Georgia when Anthony Cheek died on March 26. Cheek, who was 49 years old, had been held in Lee State Prison near Albany, a hotspot for the disease. Since then, at least 1,656 other prisoners have died of coronavirus-related causes. By Dec. 8, the total number of deaths had risen by 5 percent in a week. The coronavirus has killed prisoners in most systems. Six states—Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wyoming—have yet to report the death of a prisoner attributed to COVID-19.
There have been at least 1,657 deaths
While we know more about how prisoners are getting sick, another group of people is at risk in these facilities: correctional officers, nurses, chaplains, wardens and other workers. We know little about how coronavirus is affecting them, though they have the potential to carry it both into facilities and back out to their communities. It’s difficult to assess how prison workers are being affected because many aren’t being systematically tested.
In the most recent week, 15 states—Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia—released information on the number of their staff members tested for coronavirus. Where we do know about positive cases, most state corrections departments stress that the count includes only the employees who voluntarily report a diagnosis, often in the course of calling out sick.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 62,171 prison staff members have tested positive—with new cases at an all-time high the week of Dec. 8. Testing information for staff remains spotty in most states, but positive cases may have been undercounted in previous weeks when fewer were being tested over the Thanksgiving holiday. Prisons have publicly reported 108 deaths among staff.
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In HIS grip,